EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Even though Reilly Smith called it a lucky bounce, a whole lot more than luck is working right now for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Smith scored in overtime, Robin Lehner made 22 saves and the Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Thursday to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series. Vegas has won all five of its games since the NHL resumed.
“We’re a pretty resilient group,” said Smith, who has three goals in the series. “We need to bring that for all 60 minutes. … There’s still a lot of things we need to clean up, but we’ll take the win and try to get a little bit better tomorrow.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period alone.
The Western Conference top-seeded Golden Knights are looking for their first playoff series victory since 2018. They reached the Stanley Cup Final that year, then lost to San Jose in seven games in the first round last year.
“He’s come back from the pause and has got a lot of confidence, a lot of energy, he’s healthy,” coach Peter DeBoer said about Smith. “He’s really driving a lot of plays for us and important plays.”
The Golden Knights were without regular-season leading scorer Max Pacioretty, who only joined them in the Edmonton bubble last week. DeBoer didn’t have an update on Pacioretty or goal-scorer Tomas Nosek, who took his last shift late in the second period and didn’t return.
Paul Stastny opened the scoring for Vegas 10:44 in after strong work down low by Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, and Nosek made it 2-0 at the 15:35 mark of the first period. It was Stastny’s first goal since hockey returned.
“He steps up every night,” Smith said of Stastny. “He does everything, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Chicago got goals from rookies Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik in the second to tie it. Mark Stone restored the lead for Vegas with 2:40 left in the period, then Dylan Strome got it right back for the Blackhawks 13.6 seconds before intermission.
“I think we played a better team game today,” said Strome, who hit the crossbar early in overtime. “We did a good job of holding their forwards up coming into the zone and giving our D a little more time. We’ve got to continue to do that and be ready for next game.”
Patrick Kane assisted on all three Chicago goals in the second period.
“I thought Chicago played really well,” said Lehner, who signed with the Blackhawks last summer and was traded to Vegas at the deadline. “Everyone keeps saying they’re underdogs, but you look at their team, the experience, the skill — it’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It’s a lot of skill and they’re world-class players, so when they get opportunities, it’s hard.”
NOTES: Rookie D Lucas Carlsson made his Stanley Cup playoff debut, replacing Adam Boqvist on the Blackhawks blue line. … Stastny’s goal was his 23rd in the playoffs in his career, the most among Vegas players.
Game 3 is Saturday night.
BLUE JACKETS 3, LIGHTNING 1 (Series tied 1-1)
TORONTO (AP) — Two days after making an NHL-record 85 saves in a five-overtime loss, Joonas Korpisalo stopped 36 more shots to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Thursday to even the series at a game apiece.
Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored in the first period for Columbus, both goals set up by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Alexander Wennberg added another in the third.
“We’ve all seen him play this past season,” Dubois said about Korpisalo. “He’s an All-Star, then he gets injured and then he comes back. Another break (for the coronavirus), but we all know what he’s capable of. We all know in the dressing room that he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL, and he’s feeling really good right now.”
Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 19 saves. The Tampa Bay goalie had 61 stops Tuesday in a 4-3 victory in the fourth-longest game in league history.
Kucherov grabbed a carom off the back boards and banked in a shot off Korpisalo’s back to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead 5:24 into the game. Columbus tied it when Dubois fed Murray with a perfect pass from behind the goal line with 7:08 left in the first.
The Blue Jackets took the lead on Bjorkstrand’s one-timer from the right circle on a late first-period power play. Columbus’ goals came on just six shots in the period.
“We lost our mojo a little bit when we gave up the lead,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Early in the third period, Columbus defenseman Seth Jones — who had 65:06 of ice time Tuesday, the most since the league started tracking ice time — chased down Barclay Goodrow on a breakaway and disrupted what would have been a doorstep shot.
Then, with 8:33 left in the game, Wennberg drove in hard from the right and beat Vasilevskiy. Korpisalo then withstood the last 3:41 of a Lightning 6-on-5 attack.
“I don’t think we’re frustrated at all,” Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli said. “We’re getting pucks to the net. We’re getting good looks. We’ve got to bury our chances when we get them.”
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella downplayed the effort by his team to rebound on the heels of losing a heart-breaker in the Game 1 marathon.
“It’s what we do,” Tortorella said. “It’s what pros are supposed to do. I don’t think it’s anything special. I think it’s the proper way of going about your business. And we’ve had a lot of opportunities with the ups and downs, especially the past couple of weeks, to work at that.”
Tortorella pointed to the Columbus penalty kill that came after the Lightning had taken a 1-0 in the first period as a turning point.
NOTES: : Dubois has four goals and four assists in seven playoff games. … Brayden Point, with an assist on the Kucherov goal, became the fourth player in Lightning history to post a point in each of the first games in a postseason. … Blue Jackets G Elvis Merzlikins was still unavailable with an undisclosed injury. Matiss Kivlenieks backed up Korpisalo, and Veini Vehviläinen was brought in a third goalie.
HURRICANES 3, BRUINS 2 (Series tied 1-1)
TORONTO (AP) — This is what Dougie Hamilton was hoping for while he waited out the pandemic shutdown that put the NHL season on hold, and then waited some more after injuring himself in practice when the Hurricanes returned to the ice.
The Carolina defenseman scored the game-winner with 11:30 left in the third period on Thursday night to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins — the team that drafted him, and then gave up on him — and tie their playoff series at one game apiece.
“For seven months you’re thinking about that kind of stuff: Playing a game, scoring a goal,” said Hamilton, who missed the last 21 games of the regular season and the qualifying round series against the Rangers with separate injuries. “That’s what fuels you.”
One day after Boston won the delayed, double-overtime opener, Carolina’s No. 2 goalie James Reimer stopped 33 shots to beat the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist, Teuvo Teravainen also scored, and Martin Necas had two assists for the Hurricanes.
David Krejci and Brad Marchand scored for Boston, and Tuukka Rask made 23 saves. The Bruins, who swept Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals last season, pulled the goalie for an extra attacker and had a chance when Reimer lost his stick in the final 10 seconds, but couldn’t convert.
“We weren’t expecting to walk through this series,” Marchand said. “We knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle all the way to the end. That’s the series we’re in.”
A 2011 first-round draft choice who played his first three seasons in Boston, Hamilton broke his leg in January and, after that had healed, left a return-to-play practice in July. He didn’t return until Wednesday’s series opener against the Bruins.
“You sink to the bottom when you’re injured. Sitting around, can’t walk, watching the guys play,” Hamilton said. “(You) wait for this moment. You don’t know if it’s ever going to come, but you’ve got to believe in yourself.”
After playing a playoff career-high 26:48 in Game 1, which Boston won 4-3 in double overtime, Hamilton led the Hurricanes with 24:20 of ice time on Thursday.
“He was special, and obviously a huge game tonight,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “He answered the bell on that. Pretty good performance tonight.”
The opener was supposed to be Tuesday night, but the quintuple overtime game between the Blue Jackets and Lightning kept the rink occupied. With the games on back-to-back days, Brind’Amour opted to go with Reimer in net instead of Game 1 starter Petr Mrazek; Boston’s Bruce Cassidy sent Rask back out about 16 hours after he played 81:13 in the opener.
Brind’Amour was so unhappy after the loss that he called the league a joke, telling the Raleigh News & Observer: “This one’s a crime scene.” The league fined him $25,000 and threatened to double it if he acts up again.
He had something else to complain about in this one, when the referee waved off a go-ahead goal with 16:34 left in the third because Teravainen interfered with Rask before the goalie kicked the puck into the net. The Hurricanes challenged, but the call was confirmed.
Brind’Amour declined to comment on the sequence, saying “I think I’ll get in trouble.” But his players said his tantrum showed he had their backs.
“To see him sticking up for us yesterday, we’re going to go to bat for him,” Hamilton said. “We all respect him so much and play hard for him no matter what. But when he said that, we wanted to win for him, and rally for him.”
The Bruins were without forward David Pastrnak, who tied for the league lead with 48 goals this season and was the team’s leading scorer with 95 points. Although the team gave no details on his condition, video appeared to show him injuring himself while celebrating Patrice Bergeron’s game-winning goal in Wednesday’s 4-3 victory in double overtime.
Cassidy said Pastrnak’s injury did not appear to be a long-term issue and would probably be a game-time decision on Saturday.
The Bruins took the lead with about four minutes left in the first — scoring first for the first time since before the pandemic shutdown. Krecji got he puck at the blue line and, with Jordan Staal stickless, he faked twice and then fired one past Reimer.
Just 88 seconds later, Svechnikov scored himself, taking a pass from Necas in the slot and beating Rask over his right shoulder.
But Boston tied it with just 5 seconds left in the period when Bergeron’s shot rebounded off the post right to Marchand, who punched it in to make it 2-2 heading into the third.
Game 3 is Saturday at noon.
STARS 5, FLAMES 4 (Series tied 1-1)
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Miro Heiskanen set the tone early for the Stars when on the ice with their top line. Corey Perry and Jamie Oleksiak made sure Dallas got a series-evening win without needing overtime.
Oleksiak scored with 40 seconds left in regulation on a nifty pass from Perry as the Stars caught the Calgary Flames on a line change, and won 5-4 Thursday night after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period.
“Saw a little opening on the weak side, Perry coming down the wing. He made a great pass,” Oleksiak said. “Somehow get it in, it was close. … It was a great feeling, a great play by Perry.”
Calgary interim head coach Geoff Ward called it “just blown coverage.”
Perry also scored on a power play for the Stars, who evened the series at a game each. Game 3 is Friday night.
Calgary got a short-hander from Tobias Rieder with 7:36 left, and then tied the game on Sam Bennett’s power play goal with 2:49 left after Alexander Radulov got an interference penalty in the offensive zone when trying to batting for position.
Heiskanen scored two goals while on the ice with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Radulov, responding after Dillon Dube put the Flames ahead with a goal just 19 seconds into the game,
The Stars tied the game less than 2 1/2 minutes later, when Benn took a hard shot from just inside the blue line that goalie Cam Talbot couldn’t handle in traffic. Radulov then made a backhand spin, with the puck ricocheting over the lower leg of Derek Forbort and past the goalie.
Radulov assisted on the go-ahead goal midway through the first period when he beat Calgary captain Mark Giordano for the puck along the board, and pushed it ahead to Heiskanen for a backhander from just inside the left circle.
Heiskanen made it 3-1 about five minutes into the second period with a backhand knuckler off the board that slipped through the small gap between Talbot’s right arm and the post.
“Same thing we see out of him every game. It’s something we kind of get used to,” goalie Ben Bishop said of Heiskanen’s play. “It’s good to get him on the public stage here so everybody can see how good of a defenseman he is. … This is Miro to a `t’. He shows up every single night and he gives the same effort, and it was nice to see him get rewarded.”
Bishop stopped 22 of 26 shots for the third-seeded Stars after not playing in their last two round-robin games or the series opener against Calgary.
Talbot had 31 saves.
The Flames appeared to have gotten within a goal again about five minutes into the third period but officials ruled after a replay review that Andrew Mangiapane had kicked the puck into the net. That came at the same time that Seguin took a double-minor penalty for a high stick.
“The way I saw it, he was falling backward,” Ward said.
“It looked like he was getting pulled down or falling,” Giordano said. “The good thing is, I like the way our team responded. We didn’t let that affect us. We went out and still got the tie-er. Yeah, those things are out of our control. We thought it was good. They thought it wasn’t.”
Calgary got only two shots during the ensuing four minutes with a man advantage, before the short-hander and power play goal after that.
Forbort’s wrister from inside the blue line in the second period got Calgary within 3-2, but the Stars restored their two-goal lead about two minutes later on Perry’s power play goal.
Dube, who scored twice in the first period of the Flames’ 3-2 win in Game 1, quickly put them ahead when the puck ricocheted off the end board and through traffic right in front to the 22-year-old center.
NOTES: Flames LW Matthew Tkachuk seemed out of sorts when he skated off the ice and then left the bench early in the third period. He banged heads with both Benn and Oleksiak after getting caught in a collision between the two. Tkachuk didn’t return, but Ward had no update after the game. … Heiskanen entered the game as the Stars with a team-hive points (five assists) in the first four postseason games.
Game 3 is set for Friday.
Photo credit – Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP / Edmonton, AB